Rural India in going through a phase of transformation for the better and its growth needs both appreciation and encouragement, says a top United Nations official.
"Most of the states in India are peaking at the right time. The government initiative and role of rural Indians in the field of sanitation and poverty alleviation is showing its results," said Lizette Burgers, chief of water and sanitation, UNICEF India.
"In spite of its huge size in terms of both population and geography, the country is doing extraordinarily well. The initiative in the field of child health, polio eradication and curbing open defecation are really yielding results," Burgers told IANS in an interview.
Elaborating on the role of villagers in taking India to new heights, she said a few years ago she had gone to Hivar Bazaar village in Maharashtra and found 189 of the 228 families there to be living below the poverty line.
"Last week I visited the village again and found that of the 189 families, 186 now have good living conditions. This is called change. It's happening in many parts of the country and must happen in all villages," she said.
She pointed out that India is implementing one of the largest national water supply and sanitation programmes in the world with annual resource allocation of $1.3 billion.
She, however, noted that some states like Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh needed to keep the momentum going to achieve substantial progress.
"It's not that these states are not doing their work but the task at hand is huge. Maternal mortality, child health, school sanitation and many more matters have to be taken care of," Burgers said, adding, "this is the time to keep doing good work."
"Seven years down the line who had thought that India would be such a successful country? Now the whole world is looking at India. I have seen state governments involving youngsters and school students in developmental work.
"And this is the way to handle it. Instead of working for people, success lies in working with them," said the official, who has been associated with India since 1993.
Hailing the panchayat system of local self-governnance, Burgers said it was a huge success in India and would certainly help in achieving the Millennium Development Goals ahead of schedule.
She said Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and most of the south Indian states were doing very well at the grassroots level.
"The community at the grassroots are the agents of change. This needs to be recognised and rewarded properly. The Nirmal Gram Puraskar (Clean Village Award) of the Rural Development Ministry is a fantastic initiative towards village panchayats and it encourages others to follow the success stories."